The Hidden Proceedings – An Analysis of Accountability of Child Protection Adoption Proceedings in Eight European Jurisdictions
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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How accountable are decisions about terminating parental rights to ensure an adoption from care? In this paper we examine if the proceedings in eight European jurisdictions are accountable to: a) the private parties, i.e. individuals that are concerned – such as parents, child; b) the general public that authorized the politicians and the government to make legislation; and c) the elected government, i.e. the legislators and the system that have granted the court, court-like or administrative body the authority to make these decisions. Our data material consists of national legislation, organizational guidelines (courts, child protection, or supervisory agencies), statistics and expert knowledge. The conclusions of our analysis are discouraging. There is only limited accountability for one of the most intrusive interventions by a state into the private lives of individuals. There is a lack of information about the proceedings as well as a lack of transparency. We identify systems that, with few exceptions, operate in isolation, with only a few outsiders having access or knowledge about what is going on. We cannot in this study say anything about the decision-making quality in these proceedings, they may be excellent, but the problem is that very few external actors are in a position to examine the quality of the decisions. This missing connection between the wider democratic society and this part of the legal systems in the eight democracies we studied is of huge concern, and we have indications that the situation is equally concerning in other European states.